The Exalted Christ in the Book of Acts: Reading 1 on Historical Origin of Divine Christology

The Messianic King
The exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God means nothing less than his enthronement as messianic King. Peter concludes his first sermon with the affirmation, “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Taken out of context, this saying could mean that Jesus became Messiah at his exaltation and represents an “adoptionist” Christology. However, the context makes it clear that Jesus was the Messiah in his earthly ministry, and the immediate context makes it clear that Peter means to say that Jesus has entered in upon a new stage of his messianic mission. He has now been enthroned as messianic King.

Peter recalls that David had received a promise from God that one of his descendants would be set upon his throne (Acts 2:30). This promise appears explicitly in Psalm 132:11; but it is also implicit in such prophecies as 2 Samuel 7:13, 16; Isaiah 9:7; 11:1-9; Jeremiah 33:17, 21. Because David foresaw that his Greater Son should sit upon his throne, he foretold also the resurrection of the Messiah. This event has now been fulfilled; the Messiah has been both raised from the dead and exalted at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), so as to sit enthroned at God’s right hand. To prove this messianic enthronement, Peter quotes from Psalm 110:1, where the Lord (Yahweh) tells David’s Lord that he is to sit at God’s right hand until his enemies are conquered (Acts 2:34-35). In its Old Testament context, this psalm envisages an enthronement of David’s Lord upon the throne of the Lord m Jerusalem. This is proven by Psalm 110:2, where the messianic King sends forth his scepter from Jerusalem (Zion), ruling over his foes. That the throne of the Lord’s anointed king could be called the throne of the Lord is proven by 1 Chronicles 29:23…

Jesus as Lord
The exaltation of Jesus means that he is Lord (kyrios) as well as Messiah. “God has made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36)…

In the primitive kerygma, Jesus has become “Lord.” The title is used in the narrative of Acts at least twenty times; and it appears frequently in the combinations “the Lord Jesus,” “the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whatever the date of Acts, this use of the title probably represents die earliest preaching with fidelity, and it is significant that the great majority of the passages are found in the first half of the book.”

The impressive fact is that in Acts, kyrios is used simultaneously for God and for the exalted Jesus. The word appears in several quotations from the Septuagint for God (Acts 2:20, 21, 25, 34; 3:22; 4:26). In Acts 3:19 (Gk., v. 20), kyrios is clearly used for God (Acts 2:39; 4:29; cf 4:24; 7:31 and 33). This usage goes back to the Septuagint where kyrios is the translation not only of ‘adonay but the ineffable covenant name Yahweh. It is therefore amazing to find the term used at the same time of both Jesus and God. Not only is Jesus,’ like God, kyrios; the term is used of both God and the exalted Jesus in practically interchangeable contexts. Peter on the day of Pentecost cites language from Joel that speaks of the Day of the Lord (Yahweh) and of calling on the name of the Lord for salvation (Acts 2:20-21); and this means calling on the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4:10, 12). Jesus has been made Lord while God continues to be the Lord (Acts 2:36, 39). Jesus, as Lord, has entered upon the exercise of certain divine functions. He has poured out the Spirit (Acts 2:33); he has become the object of faith (Acts 2:21; 3:16); he gives repentance and forgiveness (Acts 5:31); he is the Holy One (Acts 3:14); the author of life (Acts 3:15); the recipient of prayer (Acts 4:29); he will be the judge of the world (Acts 10:42); and he stands at the right hand of God to receive the spirit of the first martyr (Acts 7:55, 59).

For the full significance of the kyrios designation, we must turn to the Pauline epistles, which reinforce and interpret the facts presented in Acts. The heart of the early Christian confession is the Lordship of Christ…the Christian confession of the Lordship of Jesus means the recognition of what God has done in exalting Jesus, and personal submission to and acceptance of his Lordship.

All of this is implicit in the most primitive kerygma of Jesus as Lord, because at his exaltation Jesus was made both Messiah and Lord (Acts 2:36). He has become the one by whom God will bring under control every rebellious power in the world. This is seen in Peter’s citation from Psalm 110:1: “The LORD [Yahweh] said to my Lord [Messiah], Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet” (Acts 2:34). This reign of Jesus as the exalted, enthroned Kyrios stood at the heart of the primitive kerygma.

Source. G.E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament Revised ed. Donald Hagner (Eerdmans, 1974, 1993), pp. 372-376.

You may read a  more technical discussion on the Christology of the Book of Acts at:
Historical Origin of Divine Christology. Part 2 – Exaltation Christology in Luke-Acts



One thought on “The Exalted Christ in the Book of Acts: Reading 1 on Historical Origin of Divine Christology”

  1. The Resurrection of Christ and the subsequent empowerment of the disciples by the Holy Spirit,
    culminating in the inspired proclamation of the Apostolic Kerygma, is the biblical, historical/ historic and substantive/substantial origin of the Deity of Christ. Throw away the baseless demythologization conjecture of Bultmann’s Form Criticism in this regard. Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” alone, as well as Dr. Kam Weng’s several articles as presented in “Recent Posts” of the present “Crisis and Praxis” would suffice to show much of (all of?) modernist secularist liberal views of Christology as “academic nonsense” and “intellectual imposters”!

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